David Lauderdale

Today's farm stands took root in a Gullah farming past

The Gullah Museum's "Honoring the Farmers" program cover and poster is by artist Amiri Farris of Savannah
The Gullah Museum's "Honoring the Farmers" program cover and poster is by artist Amiri Farris of Savannah Submitted photo

When the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island decided to honor farmers who lived off the land before the island became a resort, it ran into a problem.

Everybody was a farmer.

Before there was a bridge, everybody had something growing -- oranges, chickens, hogs, butterbeans, pecans, sweet potatoes, collard greens, okra, tomatoes, rice, field peas, cows, squash.

Islanders planted gardens to survive, even if they didn't till large fields and send produce to Savannah in croaker sacks to be sold at the City Market.

The solution to the museum's problem was to honor families that today work fruit and vegetable stands, which keep alive a link between the old ways and the new, the rural island and the resort.

Solomon and Della Campbell were honored at the gathering Saturday night at the Spanish Wells Club, right down the road from their Spanish Wells Seafood & Produce stand.

Solomon Campbell told a touching story about how another honoree, Wesley Campbell of Carolina Seafood, got started selling from a bicycle.

Also honored were Garden Fresh Produce and Solomon Eddie Grant Jr., Estelle Grant Aiken, Lillian Grant King, Solomon Grant Sr. (posthumously) and Gertrude Brown Grant.

Honored from Grant's Fresh Produce were Julia Grant Thomas and her brother Joseph Grant, who continue to run the stand that their parents worked for decades in the Chaplin community. Their parents, James Grant Sr. and Janie Aiken Grant, were honored posthumously.

Lynn Ravare of Back to Nature on S.C. 46 in Bluffton was honored. She is an island native.

Farming in today's world is a challenge, but there's help. Farming is being encouraged by the federal and state governments in the Gullah community on St. Helena Island. Last year, a documentary was produced on St. Helena to tell the story of small farmers, conservation and the strong Gullah tie to the land, especially on the sea islands.

The Gullah Museum has previously honored island fishermen, artists and entrepreneurs. And last year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation recognized its restoration of a small house on Gumtree Road that exemplifies Gullah life before the bridge was built. The island project earned a national award, alongside the restoration of Philadelphia's main post office.

"Keeping it alive," said museum founder Louise Cohen. "That's what we're all about. We're always thinking about taking you back in time so you'll remember where you came from, and won't forget."

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